Stewart 'Grave' Gibson is the fighting game loving, Doomguy worshipping, Motorhead listening maniac of DarkSpawn Gaming. When not ripping and tearing Stewart can be found riding the open roads or at the nearest Lucha Libre event.
Before the onslaught of zombie games we have today there was series that was synonymous with them. A series that paved the way for the survival horror genre as a whole, none other than the great Resident Evil, also known as Biohazard in Japan. Though it may have not been the first ever survival horror game it is certainly the first name that many people think of when asked about their first experience in a horror game. So with the upcoming release of the highly anticipated remake of Resident Evil 2 we take a look back at the series that put survival horror games into the spotlight.
1996 – Resident Evil
The game that started it all. Believe or not Resident Evil didn’t start out as the game it turned out as, it actually began production as a remake to Capcoms 1989 NES game Sweet Home. As production progressed however the team realised they were onto something good and so they changed the game. Making it about a zombie outbreak in a large mostly abandoned mansion, the game would go on to be what we know it as today. One of the strangest things about Resident Evil however, was the zombies themselves. Being developed by a Japanese company the idea of corpses coming back to life was highly frowned upon and so there was some uncertainly as to whether Resident Evil would sell on its home soil. Thankfully the horror fuelled adventure of Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine would be a huge seller despite some controversial opinions from the Japanese media. Resident Evil would go on to rave reviews and would be responsible for some serious pants filling from gamers all around the world.
1998 – Resident Evil 2
To this day there are many who will say that Resident Evil 2 is the best in series and I would be almost inclined to agree with them. Introducing new characters Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, each of whom had their own disc and ways to play, you felt you were getting twice the game when you purchased this at the time. Resident Evil 2 brought a whole new way to play with the famous swapping system meaning that things you did with first character would affect the second characters play through. With new enemies, weapons and some truly terrifying set pieces Resident Evil 2 went on to rave reviews as well, even surpassing the original with its spooky police station setting and memorable boss fights with Birkin and Mr. X. The idea that you were seeing the zombies overrunning an entire city really helped to push the true terror of what was happening to the unfortunate people of Racoon City. There would be some who say that Mr. X is the most nerve racking of the Resident Evil bosses but I think that it is safe to assume that honour belongs to another.
1999 – Resident Evil: Nemesis
When you want to talk about the biggest and baddest of Resident Evils bosses none of them come close to Nemesis. This eight foot tall monstrosity done the one thing that no enemy in the history of Resident Evil had done up to this point, he followed you through doors if you tried to escape him. He ran faster than you, he could kill you with one move and worst of all, he was armed. Trying to escape Racoon City while this juggernaut chased you through every street, corridor, sewer and laboratory was truly the stuff of nightmares. Returning for her second outing, the game saw you playing once again as Jill Valentine as you tried to escape Racoon City for good before the US Government decided to blast it back to the stone age. Using the same engine as the other two previous games but with new slicker animations the game did run a lot better than its processors. Due to the quick turnaround between Resident Evil 2 and 3 some did feel that this game didn’t have the same charm or atmosphere as them and so the reviews started to dip, that being said however, the game is still an incredible entry into the series.
2000 – Resident Evil: Code Veronica
By this stage there were no amount of copycats, imitators and even a few genuine competitors for Resident Evils crown. So when Code Veronica was released there had already been some spin offs in the series which had hurt its name more than anything. So when Code Veronica was released they hoped to once again put life into the series. Putting us back into the boots of Claire Redfield this was the first game in the main series to be released on new technology at the time. There was no doubt that the Dreamcast helped make the game look good but other than looks the game played and felt the same. In fact, if truth be told the game actually felt like a slight step backwards from Nemesis in terms of gameplay and smoothness. Animations looked clunkier and although Resident Evil was not exactly famous for its voice acting, Code Veronica is in a world of its own. It also introduced us to the most pointless character in Resident Evil history, Steve Burnside, what a waste of polygons he was. Re-released as Code Veronica X the game had a bit of polish and added some new scenarios but all in all the game didn’t live up to the hype that the previous games had built and delivered upon.
2002 – Resident Evil (Remake)
Down but not out Resident Evil came out swinging once again with what has since been dubbed REmake. This game was a reimaging of the first game and added incredible new graphics, locations, enemies, bosses, weapons and story lines the whole thing felt like a new game. Being released on the Gamecube with a new engine fans were treated to a whole new look to Chris and Jill, as well as the Spencer mansion itself. Voice acting was re-recorded and although still cheesy as sin, it was quite a deal better than its original source material. This was a game that was designed for fans of the original by surprising them with all new scares in locations they weren’t expecting them. Many a gamer will tell underwear destroying stories of their first encounter with a crimson head or when the dogs got them through the corridor when they weren’t expecting it. One of the biggest changes was an entirely new story based around a young girl called Lisa Trevor, it was tragic and she was truly the stuff of pure nightmares. If there was ever a game in the series that put life back into Resident Evil, this would be a huge contender.
2002 – Resident Evil Zero
Knowing a good thing when they see it Capcom decided to put the REmake engine to good use and make an entirely game set before the events of the original. Using a new character swap system that allowed the player to jump between the rookie shoes of Rebecca Chambers and tough outlaw Billy Coen, the game had some very unique puzzles to solve using this swap system. While enemies may have mostly been bug and creepy crawly related there was still of course the classic zombies and dogs in the mix. Another new feature that was added was the removal of item boxes; instead items and weapons could be simply dropped and then picked up again later. This was met with mixed reception but I personally enjoyed it as it was a change up to the now well-known item boxes and gave a new feel to the puzzles found in the game. The characters themselves also had differences between them with Rebecca being able to mix herbs and get better use from healing items while Billy could hold more and could take more of a punch. While reviews may have not been on the critically acclaimed side like they were with REmake the game reviewed well and is seen as one of the better games in the main series.
Thus, we come to the end of Part 1 but join us for part 2 where things start to change for the series, all this can be read very soon.